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20 of the Most Popular College Majors

January 14, 2021 · 6 minute read

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20 of the Most Popular College Majors

After studying for standardized tests, applying to schools, and leaving home for college, it may feel like the big decisions are over. Getting to campus is an achievement any student should be proud of, but starting a four-year degree comes with its own share of choices.

Top among them is picking a college major. Declaring a major is a personal process based on a student’s interests, strengths, and projected career track. But simply browsing the course catalog to search for the right major is enough to make even the most assured student’s head spin.

A Major List

While popularity doesn’t need to drive personal decision-making, diving into the data on popular college majors can illuminate trends and provide a jumping-off point for college students who just can’t decide how to declare.

Based on Niche’s top majors , ranked by the number of degrees awarded, here’s what students are studying at U.S. colleges and what career tracks they can expect when they leave campus.

Business and Management

Major Description: An all-encompassing term, business and management programs provide a baseline of business principles, which include critical thinking and analysis. Courses include Accounting, Business Ethics, Team Development, and Human Resources.

Job Opportunities: This broad major provides lots of postgrad directions. It can take graduates on an MBA track or can feed directly into the job market with roles in accounting, marketing, sales, account management, or financial analysis.

Nursing

Major Description: There are many pathways to a nursing education. From certifications to master’s degrees, nursing course loads include everything from Anatomy and Chemistry to Statistics and care for specific populations.

Job Opportunities: The demand for nurses is growing as the industry faces a shortage of qualified hires. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 12% from 2018 to 2028—much faster than most. Graduates with a nursing degree can choose from a variety of career tracks, from school nurse or research nurse to work on a cruise ship or in the emergency room.

Psychology

Major Description: Psychology is the deep dive into human behavior and what drives us. A degree in psychology can be a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts, depending on the course load. Areas of study include learning, memory, development, addiction, and childhood development.

Job Opportunities: A bachelor’s degree in psychology could mean heading to a master’s program or a doctorate, but according to the American Psychological Association, 57% of psychology undergraduates go straight into the workforce after graduation, working in jobs like career counselor, caseworker, and market researcher.

Biology

Major Description: Biology is the study of living things, so biology majors can expect to spend plenty of class time in the lab, learning everything from human anatomy to molecular biology. It’s a mix of math, science, chemistry, and, of course, biology.

Job Opportunities: Some biology majors may choose the medical school track after graduation, but that’s not the only path to employment. Biology majors can pursue careers in pharmaceuticals, research, genetics, medicine, and even finance (thanks to a background in math and research).

Engineering

Major Description: A degree in engineering means having the critical thinking skills to solve problems . Engineering majors, embodying a mix of math, science, and business, can choose specific areas of study, from the environment to structural mechanics and chemicals.

Job Opportunities: From the laboratory to a construction site or hospital, engineers have a wide variety of career tracks to choose from. Much of this will be informed by a student’s specific area of study. A structural or civil engineer might work on state building projects, while a chemical engineer is more likely to be found in the lab, perfecting everything from medicine to cosmetics.

Education

Major Description: A degree in education includes studying psychology, education, and often an area of expertise (what the student will teach after graduation).

Job Opportunities: A degree in education doesn’t always mean a teaching career. Besides teaching, graduates can go into a variety of industries that support the education system, including school administration, counseling, education policy, or student life.

Communications

Major Description: Communications is an umbrella term for the study of media and information, from journalism to social media and public relations. Classes a communications major might take are News Writing, Mass Communications, Film Studies, and Social Media.

Job Opportunities: What graduates will do with a communications degree will hinge on the type of media they studied in school. A student who concentrates in visual media might work as a video producer or camera operator. One who studied journalism might work in public relations or technical writing.

Finance and Accounting

Major Description: Finance and accounting deal with the scrutiny of numbers. Finance often focuses on the longer term—like financial planning and budgeting. Accounting can involve more short-term money matters, like analyzing financial statements. Both degrees involve studying math, business, finances, and investments.

Job Opportunities: With a degree in finance or accounting, it’s only natural to pursue a role that deals with math and/or money. Accounting majors can pursue careers in accounting, bookkeeping, or auditing. Finance can lead to roles as an advisor, planner, or analyst in the finance space.

Criminal Justice

Major Description: For those interested in the law, majoring in criminal justice might be a good fit. This major explores not only the legal system but also the psychological study of crime, sociology, and public policy.

Job Opportunities: After graduation, many criminal justice majors will pursue law school, but that’s not the only option. Graduates can also explore law enforcement or counseling.

Anthropology and Sociology

Major Description: Anthropology and sociology are inherently the study of people— the exploration of race, gender, and geography’s influence on societies, blending the study of history with modern analysis.

Job Opportunities: Graduates may work in the research field or medical anthropology. Additionally, they may find work at the federal level, where anthropologists are often required for major projects.

Computer Science

Major Description: Computer science is the study of data, engineering, and the systems surrounding computers. A major in computer science means a steady mix of math classes and software engineering or programming courses.

Job Opportunities: The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the need for computer science jobs to grow by 12% from 2018 to 2028, putting computer science graduates in high demand. (The bureau also put the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations at $88,240 in mid-2019, much higher than median annual pay for all occupations, $39,810.) Graduates can explore software development, information technology, or network security.

English

Major Description: An English major explores everything about the written word, including genres of literature and interpretation. English majors also learn critical thinking and the ability to write, whether that be technical, creative, legal, or medical writing.

Job Opportunities: Because many jobs include a solid foundation in reading and writing , an English degree can apply across many fields. Graduates might go into teaching, writing (journalist, copywriter, author), communications, or public relations.

Economics

Major Description: Economics combines the study of people with statistics to learn how government and groups develop around resources, typically money. Students will study economic theory, the history of economics, and the math that’s behind much of the statistical monitoring.

Job Opportunities: Graduates can take a variety of roles, thanks to the analytic skills of their major. That, on top of learned communication skills, makes economics majors a good fit for roles like analysts, consultants, and actuaries.

Political Science

Major Description: Political science is the study of governing, including theory, history, and current practices. This area of study requires students to follow current events as well as analyze and research past actions.

Job Opportunities: Studying political science can lead to a job in politics, but there are other options as well. The critical thinking skills lend themselves well to PR and social media management, as well as policy work or analysis.

History

Major Description: History majors analyze the past. A core part of a liberal arts degree, studying history may be a good fit for students who want a generalist education.

Job Opportunities: History majors perfect a lot of skills that come in handy in the workplace. Strong writing, reading, and analytical skills make them a great fit for roles like analyst or consultant, or a career in politics.

Kinesiology

Major Description: Kinesiology is the study of physical activity. Specifically, it’s working with people to improve their health through exercising. A degree in kinesiology involves anatomy, hands-on work, and learning to work with patients.

Job Opportunities: For many, a degree in kinesiology is the foundation for a doctorate in physical therapy, but graduates can also apply their skills to careers in training, coaching, and some forms of therapy.

Health Professions

Major Description: This major will prepare students to work in the medical field, helping patients. They can expect to take classes in anatomy, chemistry, biology, public health, and medical ethics.

Job Opportunities: Graduates can find careers as health care aides, nursing assistants, and RNs.

Art

Major Description: Studying art creates the opportunity to both learn the history of a medium and create art. Students may choose a specific form of art or study movements and mediums in general.

Job Opportunities: Grads don’t have to turn to creating art full time unless they want to. They can work as art educators, in museums and art preservation, or try their hand in the work of gallery curation.

Math

Major Description: Students majoring in math will explore all math disciplines, in addition to theoretical and historical context around the subject.

Job Opportunities: A math degree is helpful in any career that deals with interpreting numbers daily: actuary, data scientist, teacher, or software developer.

Environmental Science

Major Description: Studying environmental science can be a great fit for generalists who want to explore many subjects around our surroundings and the science involved. They’ll study chemistry, biology, physics, and geography, among other subjects.

Job Opportunities: Graduates can pursue careers in research in fields including horticulture, oceanography, microbiology, and ecology.

Paying for College

Another major decision in the college process? Finding a way to pay for school. Once a student has exhausted federal programs and scholarships, a fee-free private student loan from Sofi® could be a great fit.

Private student loans can generally be applied to tuition, food, books, lodging, transportation, and personal expenses.

With rate discounts and an easy online platform, financing school can be simple with SoFi®. Checking your rate takes just three minutes.

Interested in a private student loan? Apply for one with SoFi today.



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